Episode 14: Suicide
September is Suicide Awareness Prevention Month, and we wanted to use this month as an opportunity to introduce this topic to our show. This episode is heavier than our normal conversations, but we hope you will find encouragement in the stories we share.
If you need immediate help or know someone who is in an emergency situation, we recommend calling the Suicide Prevention Hotline. That number to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
0:00 - Intro to topic
7:00 - Framing the discussion in Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, what clinicians and communities are doing to make sure they are having more conversations than ever before on this topic. According to the CDC, 11% of adults reported having contemplated suicide in their latest survey, which was double than last year’s. 30% of unpaid caregivers were thinking of suicide as well, along with 20% of essential workers.
“I think those numbers illustrate the realness of the world around us. It tugs a lot of things in our life. I have a hard time talking about this with folks because I’m afraid I’m going to put someone on a bad path [to suicide].”
10:10 - Can talking about suicide make it worse for others? Michael shares his experiences interacting with suicidal young people through campus ministry and Evan talks about the stigma he noticed others felt from dealing with suicidal ideation, even in high school.
“It sometimes feel safer to avoid it or hide it, let a clinician handle it; but in reality, being present for somebody is the best thing we can offer them. If anything, the reality is that if we talk about suicide directly with someone it reduces the likelihood they’ll follow through.”
18:00 - What are the warning signs and risk factors? Lindsay talks about the effectiveness of checking in, even if it’s only by text. Also, we discuss the spectrum of suicidal thoughts, and how someone’s placement on that spectrum necessitates different kinds of intervention and help. We go into detail about what each end of the spectrum looks like as well as what the warning signs are.
“Suicidal ideation can be a huge spectrum. It can range from thoughts of not wanting to exist to explicit thoughts of how someone would hurt themselves. The safety and intervention needs to be different at various points on the spectrum.”
27:50 - How do we start conversations about suicide? How do we go about naming it? Also, how do we address our own internal narratives when we are experience these thoughts ourselves? Michael provides an alternate strategy to begin the conversation for someone else.
“One way I’ve seen that works is I might start off by inviting someone to coffee and starting the conversation by telling them the ways I appreciate them. When we provide affirmation to people who have suicidal thoughts, it disarms them and challenges their own notions of not having any worth. When it’s hard to approach the thing they’re struggling with, maybe take a different approach and try to flip the script for someone in a way that will encourage vulnerability.”
34:40 - What are the truths we can find in scripture? We’ll also discuss the ways the church hasn’t been helpful in fighting against suicide, which often comes as a result of not wanting to make matters worse. Lindsay talks about Psalms of lamentation and how they pertain to suicidal thoughts, and also we discuss the wrongful theology that suicide victims suffer damnation after they have passed.
“I don’t think these ideas came out of a desire to hurt people, but rather prevent people from hurting themselves or taking their own lives. What they don’t understand is that the person already is in hell when they are thinking of ending their own lives. “
42:40 - How do we remove the stigma of talking about suicide within the church? Michael gives us an excerpt from the United Methodist Church’s book of discipline that touches on this topic. Lindsay discusses option people have to see therapists, and how HIPAA laws protect your confidentiality.
“Churches typically don’t address suicide until it is visible to them; someone in the congregation has taken their life or has lost someone to suicide. What if the church took the initiative every September to raise awareness and start the conversation?”
53:00 - What kind of ongoing care needs to happen when someone we know has struggled with suicide or has lost someone? Lindsay describes the psychiatric treatments for both short-term and long-term scenarios.
1:03:00 - Closing thoughts.